Alimony, also known as spousal support, is payment made from one spouse to another in order to provide financial support following divorce. In South Dakota, alimony may be awarded before the court issues a final divorce decree so that the financial needs of the recipient spouse are met while divorce is pending. A spouse can also request spousal support during separation, without seeking divorce. This type of support is termed separate maintenance, and it may be requested based on the same grounds used in divorce. It also separate from any child support payments made due to the nature of the child custody agreement.

There are three types of alimony that may be awarded to provide support for a spouse following divorce. The first is permanent alimony. The spouse seeking this type of alimony must prove the need for the support, and the court must find the paying spouse is able and has “sufficient means” to provide for all or part of that need. The second type is rehabilitative alimony, which is intended to provide the recipient spouse with financial support while that spouse acquires the education and training necessary to eventually become self-supporting. The third type of alimony in restitutional. This is a form of reimbursement to the spouse who contributed to the other’s enhanced training or education during the marriage.

How Do You Qualify for Alimony?

In determining alimony, the court will look at a number of factors affecting both parties, including length of the marriage, earning potential, financial situation once property is divided, age, health, station in life or social standing, and fault. If restitutional or rehabilitative alimony is considered, the court will also take into account the contributions of the paying spouse during the marriage, as well as that spouse’s lost opportunity to advance vocational skills due to marital responsibilities, and the length of the marriage after the recipient spouse attained a professional degree.

How Much Alimony Can You Receive?

South Dakota laws do not place a limitation on the amount of alimony a spouse can receive. However, the Supreme Court of South Dakota has struck down alimony awards in which the recipient spouse failed to show the requisite need for support. In a 2016 case, the court reversed an alimony award to the wife of $1,000 per month, concluding that she had not met her burden of establishing need for the support, particularly following the division of property.

As discussed above, there are various factors the court considers in calculating alimony. It is difficult to predict award amounts a court might deem excessive. Therefore, if you are seeking alimony, or think you may need to pay it, it is in your best interest to discuss your situation with a lawyer. 

How Long Does Alimony Last?

The length of alimony is determined according to what the court deems “just,” taking into consideration the circumstances presented by the parties. Alimony can have a short duration or last until the death of the recipient spouse. The court has discretion to modify the terms of alimony should the parties’ circumstances change.

How Do You Petition for Alimony?

A lawyer can help you during the difficult time of divorce by making sure you do not inadvertently waive your right to alimony. The court will not know you need spousal support unless you ask. A lawyer will help you petition for alimony in the beginning (with your divorce papers), as well as timely submit a request for any spousal support you may need while your divorce is pending.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

The issue of alimony is a highly contentious, variable area of divorce. It is crucial to protect yourself, as well as your current and future financial situation. If you are considering filing for divorce, or have been served with divorce papers, get expert help and contact your local South Dakota family lawyer today.